There is a lot of hype around the use of pacifiers. It is a subject which many parents hold quite firm ideas about and one that can cause debate between new parents when they decide whether or not to use one to settle their baby.
Before deciding whether or not to introduce a pacifier make sure that breastfeeding is established - sucking on a pacifier is a different type of sucking motion and can disrupt feeding. It also decreases the amount of time spent breastfeeding and can interfere with your breast milk supply if not used cautiously.
I personally decided to give my little guy a pacifier from the age of two weeks. He was fully breastfed, and I knew that using one may cause more problems for me with nipple pain as his attachment was pretty bad for the first month, but he was a sucky baby who wanted to suck to sleep. There was no way I would have been able to handle extra breastfeeding on top of making sure he had enough food (I actually would probably have given up breastfeeding if I'd had to do more).
I also wasn't prepared to just et my baby cry himself to sleep. In hindsight, and with our second child, I would try settling him with a cuddle and then putting him down again first to see if we could get him to sleep that way rather than introducing a pacifier, but that is what we did, and at the time it was totally right for our family.
The key reason you would introduce a pacifier is a crying baby who won't settle. Now this baby could be put to the breast to suck instead, but some mothers would prefer to give a pacifier.
The second question one asks about this is why would the mother prefer a pacifier over a breastfeed? A few common answers to this question are that the baby is a "sucky" baby and likes to suck to settle but has poor attachment and the mothers nipples can't handle extra sucking over and above the required nutritive sucking. Another answer is that the baby may constantly want to nurse and the mother is not comfortable doing this. In both these cases the right decision has been made for those individuals.
The first mother has time to recuperate and recollect herself for the next breastfeed. One thing she must keep in mind is that her newborn is not attaching well and she needs to seek help to improve this.
The second mother has a settled baby who someone else can hold if she needs to get things done (and this is not necessarily a "my time" over "the needs of the baby" there may be important things that can't be done at another time ie dental appointments and other random appointments where it's not appropriate for a baby to be). This means the baby is not overly distressed during these times, which is not healthy for baby or carer.
This second, unsettled all the time, baby also may have a condition such as reflux or colic. This baby is in pain and will have elevated stress levels to begin with. I they are given a pacifier this can help to alleviate their stress, and that of the parents.
So when deciding whether or not you need to introduce a pacifier keep in mind that there are some very good positive outcomes for using a pacifier. There are however some negative ones to consider.
All in all pacifiers certainly have their uses and their bad points and it is up to each individual family to decide what is right for them.